Easy smorgasbord to break the Yom Kippur fast


During Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a strict fast is observed — no food or drink for 24 hours. So, it is always important to remember that the Yom Kippur Eve menu has special requirements.
 
The prefast dinner should be quite light, ending with a delectable dessert to help the sweet tooth stay on hold. Cut down on salt so that the thirst that comes with fasting will not be unbearable, and for the after-the-fast meal, people will want to savor the flavors and spices again, but the food should not be too heavy.
 
My bubbe always told me that after fasting on Yom Kippur, our bodies needed a lot of salt, and I remember that her break-the-fast dinners always included several types of cured herring.
 
The Scandinavians can take credit for inventing a perfect menu for this occasion. The creators of the smorgasbord enjoy an array of salads and pickled and smoked fish served on their favorite breads that offer a large variety of open-face sandwiches. It is a meal that combines the perfect ingredients necessary for your post-Yom Kippur meal.
 
To begin, greet your guests with apple slices dipped in honey and challah or honey cake when they return from the synagogue. Then serve this simple meal either as a buffet or in separate courses: several salads, open-face sandwiches and delicious, homemade strudel for dessert.
The menu is amazingly easy to prepare. Everything can be made in advance and refrigerated. It is not necessary to spend a lot of time in the kitchen while everyone suffers from acute hunger pangs.
 
My Signature Strudel had been a family tradition since we lived on a ranch in Topanga Canyon and our children were very young. After making strudel for family and friends for several years, a local restaurant asked me to bake it for their dessert menu — and I was in business. I would deliver the strudel wrapped in aluminum foil, frozen, and they would bake it to order. When customers asked for the recipe, they said it was a secret — but, not any more. Enjoy!
 

Cucumber Salad With Dill
 
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large (hot-house variety) cucumbers, sliced paper-thin
2 tablespoons dried dill weed or 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill
1 head Bibb lettuce
1 bunch arugala
Cherry tomatoes for garnish

 
In a large glass bowl, mix the water, vinegar, salt and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumbers and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Drain; serve on lettuce leaves and garnish with watercress and cherry tomatoes.
Serves six to eight.

 
Beet and Onion Salad
 
5 pickled beets, drained and sliced (recipe follows)
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 cup minced parsley
Lettuce leaves
 

In a large salad bowl, toss together the beets, onion and cucumber.
 
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice. Just before serving, pour the olive oil mixture over the beet mixture and toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in a bowl or in individual servings on a bed of lettuce. Garnish with chopped egg and parsley.
Serves eight to 10.
 

Pickled Beets
 
5 large raw beets
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 (2-inch) stick cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
 

Trim the beets, leaving one inch of the stem. Wash the beets, place them in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for one hour or until the beets are tender. Reserve one cup of the liquid. While the beets are still warm, slice off their stems and peel off and discard the outer skins. Transfer the beets to a large ovenproof bowl. Set them aside.
 
Place the mustard seeds, allspice, cloves and cinnamon stick in a cheesecloth bag and tie securely. In a large saucepan, combine the vinegar, reserved beet liquid, sugar and the spice bag. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Pour this mixture over the beets, cover and refrigerate. Chill overnight.
 
Serves eight to 10.

 
Kerstin Marsh’s Beet and Herring Salad
 
From the first taste of this salad, you will be hooked. The contrasting flavors of the herring, pickled beets, noodles and crispy apples are so delicious.
 
This recipe comes from the Swedish kitchen of our good friend Kerstin Marsh’s mother. We have been enjoying it in Kerstin’s home every year during the holidays for at least 20 years. I finally got Marsh to copy her cherished recipe from the original tattered and torn pages of her handwritten cookbook.
 

1 (8-ounce) jar herring in wine sauce, drained and diced
1 1/2 to 2 cups pickled beets, chopped or thinly sliced (see recipe)
2 cups cooked macaroni
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf, crumbled
 

In a large bowl, combine the herring, beets, noodles, apples and onions and toss to blend. Blend in the mayonnaise and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well with the bay leaf. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Serves eight to 10.
 

Open-Face Herring Sandwiches With Horseradish Sauce

 
12 thin slices limpa bread

A Man for All Seasonings


The Rabbi of Chelm was teaching a class,

“Rabbi,” a student asked. “Why is the sea so salty?”

“Idiot,” the Rabbi intoned. “Because it’s full of herring.”

Like many baby-boomers today, I sometimes feel older than Keith Richards up a palm tree. So when Irv and Eddie, my better elders, invite me to go out with them, I tag along, if only to combat creepy self-pity.

“I know you wanna start out with creamed herring,” says Eddie as we roll into Nate’n Al, a famous Beverly Hills delicatessen where Larry King has breakfast every morning and Eddie and Irv like to kibitz on Saturday night.

Irv’s walker goes up against a wall, joining the half-dozen others already parked there.

“Like umbrellas in Seattle,” Eddie says. Once seated, the two friends observe an ancient Jewish ritual of the booths: talking about meals they’ve had in other restaurants. Every place from IHOP to Hop Li is on their carte du jour.

“It’s terrible,” Irv says about the latter Hop.

“I know,” Eddie replies. “You said they threw the food at you.”

“It was frightening.”

“I wouldn’t want to get you frightened.”

“The food is excellent,” Irv admits.

“They never threw it at me,” Eddie says. “So it must have been you!”

I enjoy hanging out with these gentlemen because they’re never less than enlightening. Tonight I learn two tablespoons of flaxseed a day can save your heart, and a martini before dinner gets the appetite up. That the Yiddish derision of “MGM” — where Irv worked for 10 years — was Louis “Mayer’s Gansa Mishpachah.”

Eddie knew Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatrist, and the doctor who discovered cholesterol. Irv claims the guy claimed credit for discovering cholesterol before anybody else.

“So we’ll order one herring,” Eddie says.

“And we’ll stab at it?” Irv says.

“We’ll stab at the herring.”

Because of glaucoma, Irv can barely read the menu, so Eddie gives him the entrees.

“Here come the combinations,” he says like the track announcer at Hollywood Park. “Turkey mushroom chow mein, fresh chicken livers, turkey blintzes with kasha, stuffed kishka plate, pot roast of beef, sweet and sour boiled beef … are you interested in chicken?”

“No,” Irv replies. “Not tonight.” He touches over the table. “Any napkins here?”

“Not yet. Here, want some sauerkraut or pickle?”

“How do you get it?”

“Well you have to know someone.”

A short discourse follows on new dill and the pickles Irv made in his basement in Bel Air that Billy Wilder and Gene Kelly enjoyed. I love the loving ease with which they kid each other’s explanations of kasha and kippers. The white meat vs. dark. And in the case of baked beans, Heinz vs. Bush, they also are not in agreement. After bandying about how tough some braised short ribs can be, Irv asks: “Did you order the herring?”

“Nobody was here yet, Irving.”

“Oh really, Ed? Why don’t you order a waiter?”

We laugh.

Eddie has a joke: “I like the table. You got one closer to a waitress?”

“They don’t have waiters,” Irv comes back. “They got tables.”

“I was saying hello to them,” Sophia explains when she arrives. She means another couple in another booth. “I known them like 20 years. How you doing?”

“See if you got a table closer to a waitress,” Eddie says.

More laughter.

“I think I’m gonna have the chicken,” he tells her.

Irv orders the chicken, too: “I used to get the half-a-chicken a lot at Canter’s, remember?”

“Each time,” Eddie replies, “it’s a different adventure.”

“Did you order herring?”

“Yes I ordered the herring!”

“Can we have some of the double-baked rye bread?” Irv asks Sophia, calling her “dear.”

“And if you get the herring over first,” Eddie tells her, “this man will make it through the rest of the meal.”

For some reason I order pastrami and a celery soda.

“What did you order?” Irv asks me. “Steak?”

“Pastrami.”

“Pastrami? I don’t recommend it here.”

“No?”

“OK,” he allows. (Whew.)

Delicatessens from here to Delancey Street come up. The Reuben at the Carnegie on Broadway that Irv says gave his wife an orgasm. The Ratner’s toothpick joke Irv insists he first heard from “Broadway Sam” at Leo Lindy’s.

“I was born above a delicatessen,” Irv says. “My horoscope sign was ‘Hebrew National.'”

That’s a joke he told for Jan Murray’s birthday at the New York Deli in Century City. Irv used to love Langer’s on Alvarado Street for their double-baked rye. Froman’s on Wilshire Boulevard for the chicken-in-the-pot. Label’s on Pico Boulevard for their platters. But Irv doesn’t enjoy L.A. delis anymore.

“The real potent garlic you used to be able to detect from 40 feet away?” he says. “Now if you walk in you don’t smell anything.”

He says it’s because all the garlic comes from China and takes weeks to get here by boat. “Consequently the taste of Italian cooking and delicatessen — anything that uses garlic, a key spice in the pickling of meats — is lacking in a certain bite.”

Irv says a food writer at the L.A. Times confirmed the China potency theory. “The only place you can find old-fashioned garlic,” Irv insists, “is at a farmer’s market if the guy with the stall grew it himself up in Oxnard. Somebody who would eat real garlic in the old days knew who his friends were, because most people would avoid him.”

Eddie doesn’t agree.

“Eddie likes every place,” Irv says. “But no delicatessen is really good unless an hour after you’ve eaten, it repeats on you.”

Hanging out with nonagenarians, I realize I am not old. I’m middle-aged and have just missed a lot.

The mushroom barley arrives, ahead of the herring plate.

“She’s bringing the herring for dessert!” Irv laughs.

“I went through this whole routine,” Eddie moans. “‘Give him the herring’ I said. Get the herring here first before we start.” He shakes his head. “I told her all that, and she still didn’t bring it.”

“Well,” Irv says. “This is the best restaurant in the world! Can’t you tell?”